Alina Ibragimova / Vladimir Jurowski / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos

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Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos Review

by James Manheim

The novelty of this recording lies in two qualities. First is its roots in the historical-instrument movement, in the presence of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski. They don't appear to be using actual period instruments from the early 19th century, but with a total of just over 40 musicians this is a lean set of Mendelssohn performances without a doubt. The second unusual quality is the presence of Mendelssohn violin concertos in the plural. Many listeners may be unaware of the earlier item, the Violin Concerto in D major that rounds out the album. It was composed in 1822, when Mendelssohn was 13, and it stands apart even from his other early works: except for the very Mozartian slow movement it seems to have been an attempt to master the virtuoso idiom of the French violin school of Giovanni Battista Viotti and his successors. With its legato yet flashy lines it doesn't sound much like Mendelssohn at all. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Russian-British violinist Alina Ibragimova do quite well here. She has a bright, wiry tone and an agile, electric way with passagework, and in this rather odd concerto the small forces are appropriate. It's an item worth space in the collection of Mendelssohn buffs. The case is less clear when it comes to the famed Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, which was written more than 20 years later. Ibragimova's mastery of the technical details does not flag in the broad and varied opening movement, and there's nothing really to quarrel with throughout. But there's a certain flatness of affect to the whole that will put some listeners off. Jurowski's reading of Fingal's Cave, clear and precise, may also be a matter of taste, but it's certainly on the dry side. Your mileage may vary, and the recording does what it sets out to do. The Henry Wood hall sound is all that could be desired. But if you're looking for broad, warm readings of Mendelssohn's sentimental melodies, sample to make sure you feel you're getting them here.

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